The River of Toys 2005 | 12.17.05

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However eclectic and thought provoking, the pre-Christmas ambience of giving gifts and receiving music in return proved favorable to one and all.


The Pageant, St. Louis

The third annual 2005 River of Toys Concert, raising money for the Marines’ Toys for Tots campaign and hosted by 101.1 the River, was rockin around the Christmas tree on Saturday night. This year’s lineup included Natasha Bedingfield, Anna Nalick, Vertical Horizon, Ben Folds, and Collective Soul. While the 30-somethings nursed (read: slammed) drinks inside the Halo Bar, a surprisingly young crowd lined up around the block. Since when do kids close their doors and blare Collective Soul? Vertical Horizon?”(OK, I did. But, that was 1999-ish.) This thought quickly followed by the notion that Ben Folds appearance may have something to do with the untied Vans and over-sized sports jerseys. Hark! A marketing strategy of genius, it’s a Christmas miracle! However eclectic and thought provoking, the pre-Christmas ambience of giving gifts and receiving music in return proved favorable to one and all. Joining something old with something new, some who knew the artists and some confused.

First up on the stage was Natasha Bedingfield, London native and sister to Daniel (remember the overplayed 2002 tune, “Gotta Get Thru This”? It’s going through your head right now, isn’t it?). The young and vibrant performer got the crowd started with songs from her pop/rock/dance friendly album Unwritten. While climbing the charts in London, the single “(These Words), I Love You, I Love You” is just now catching fire in the States. And due to the night’s inspired performance, accompanied by soft murmurs of “Who was that?” the fire may have started small flames in St. Louis. Rejoice! Christmas miracle numero dos!

Keeping in the spirit of female, Anna Nalick was up, performing songs from this year’s gold album, Wreck of the Day. Opening with “What if I Fall,” Nalick calmly eased into her set, morphing into the synergy of the packed house. The silent but hopeful crowd at her feet, Nalick’s heavy, acoustic-based vocals danced between the soft and the powerful, with melodies reminiscent of Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn... Followed by some friendly holiday advice to “Just Breathe,” Nalick worked her crowd. “Do you like my outfit?” she fished. Keeping in the spirit of fashion, yes. Yes, we did.

The ghost of Christmas past brought on Vertical Horizon. While front man Matt Scannel and the boys just released their album Go in July, the set list included a majority of songs from their 1999 major-label debut Everything You Want, including “You’re a God” and “I’m Still Here.” The latter even inspired the crowd to sing along a cappella—the masses caroling to be seen, heard, and acknowledged for the not-so-soon-forgotten music genre of the early ’90s.

Up next, Ben Folds minus the five, the scraggly man/self-proclaimed nerd musical genius, with his black rimmed glasses and magic fingers pounding the hell outta that keyboard. Dare I say Christmas miracle cuatro? Folds’ set list included “Jesus Land,” a ’tis-the-season reference to all the “JESUS” billboards on the highway, as well as “Stan,” “Rockin the Suburbs,” and his fraternity-idolized rendition of “Bitches Ain’t Shit” by Dr. Dre. However, the evening hit its pinnacle when Folds began paying homage to Santa’s “fat ass.” Cinco de Christmas miracle! Nothing personal, Santa. Maybe next year’s show will be hosted by the diet-pill tycoon with a slenderized Santa slurring, “Trim Spa, baby.”

To take us home, Ed Roland and the calm and collect Collective Soul, who kicked things off with “Better Now” and “How Do You Love” from the new album Youth. The band, which has also graced the music scene since the early ’90s, offered tracks from 1993’s Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid and everything in between, including “Run,” “December,” “Shine,” and “Where the River Flows.” Roland’s voice commanded the stage, with simplistic riffs but definite depth. With five Christmas miracles down, an encore was in order. The boys chose to deliver John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” to a delighted—and, by now, good and drunk—audience, grateful nonetheless.

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